Purpose To provide estimates of visual impairment in people with diabetes attending screening in a multi-ethnic population in England (United Kingdom). Methods The Diabetic Retinopathy In Various Ethnic groups in UK (DRIVE UK) Study is a cross-sectional study on the ethnic variations of the prevalence of DR and visual impairment in two multi-racial cohorts in the UK. People on the diabetes register in West Yorkshire and South East London who were screened, treated or monitored between April 2008 to July 2009 (London) or August 2009 (West Yorkshire) were included in the study. Data on age, gender, ethnic group, visual acuity and diabetic retinopathy were collected. Ethnic group was defined according to the 2011 census classification. The two main ethnic minority groups represented here are Blacks (“Black/African/Caribbean/Black British”) and South Asians (“Asians originating from the Indian subcontinent”). We examined the prevalence of visual impairment in the better eye using three cut-off points (a) loss of vision sufficient for driving (approximately <6/9) (b) visual impairment (<6/12) and (c) severe visual impairment (<6/60), standardising the prevalence of visual impairment in the minority ethnic groups to the age-structure of the white population. Results Data on visual acuity and were available on 50,331individuals 3.4% of people diagnosed with diabetes and attending screening were visually impaired (95% confidence intervals (CI) 3.2% to 3.5%) and 0.39% severely visually impaired (0.33% to 0.44%). Blacks and South Asians had a higher prevalence of visual impairment (directly age standardised prevalence 4.6%, 95% CI 4.0% to 5.1% and 6.9%, 95% CI 5.8% to 8.0% respectively) compared to white people (3.3%, 95% CI 3.1% to 3.5%). Visual loss was also more prevalent with increasing age, type 1 diabetes and in people living in Yorkshire. Conclusions Visual impairment remains an important public health problem in people with diabetes, and is more prevalent in the minority ethnic groups in the UK.